Rwanda – Day 3/4 (TOMS Shoe drops)

This is a little boy that was very excited about his new shoes.

This is a little boy that was very excited about his new shoes.

The last couple of days have been some of the most rewarding and life enriching days I’ve had maybe in my entire life.   Today and yesterday we worked with TOMS shoes on what they call “shoes drops”.  TOMS shoe’s business model is based around the idea of  “One for One”.  For every item you buy from TOMS they give a pair of their TOMS shoes to a person (mostly children) in need.  So what we’ve been doing the last couple of days is being the hands and feet that get to carry out this amazing experience of giving children in real need a pair of brand new shoes.   In the US we may have two, five, ten or more pairs of shoes; some of which we may hardly wear.   Heck we may decide we don’t like our current pair of shoes after this season even.   Well, the children here will wear the shoes that they have (that they may have received second or third hand) until they literally disintegrate off of their body.

Our first shoe drop we conducted on Monday 3.29.2010.  We went up into the mountains to a hospital and school called Shyira.   The drive up the mountain was narrow, curvy, and very treacherous.  The roads were muddy and rocky and we were driving awfully close to the edge of the road that had quite the drop off.  Just seeing the people in villages along the way was an experience in itself.  I could’ve gone home after that drive and been impacted plenty from what I saw.   You saw lots of mud houses; people working in the fields, little children (under the age of 2) walking near the streets with tattered clothes.  The site would be enough to bring tears to your eyes.  But as sad and heart wrenching as it was to initially see them like that, the smiles on their faces were enough to bring joy to your heart.  At no point did you see self-pity in their eyes or anger on their face.  These people are in the business of survival, they don’t have time for pity parties.

We got to the hospital after probably a 30 to 45 min bumpy, mud slinging ride and as we pulled into the area where the hospital was everyone of course started to come out to see the Muzungus (means white person in many Bantu languages of east, central and southern Africa).  As we pulled down the road and little way to where the school was, probably 200 or more children began to run out to meet our trucks and they were yelling and laughing and just so excited to see us coming.  I’m not sure if they knew they were getting shoes that day or not.  It was definitely a site to see.   So we carried several big boxes of shoes into a big indoor pavilion type building that was wide open and began unboxing the shoes and  organizing them in preparation for the kids coming.

First shoe drop. Gave 250 pairs of shoes to kids that really needed them.

So what we did was bring in probably 6 kids at a time, fit them and then give them shoes.   It was an amazing experience to be able to give them clean, new shoes and then watch their faces light up as they walk away in them.  NO BETTER FEELING!!  After the kids were given their shoes they went out and played with some of the folks that were there with us working on the shoe drop.  So it was an all around great day of giving and playing and just loving on kids.

This morning (3.30.2010 as I write this) we went to a local boarding school called Sonrise Academy in Musanza.  This school has become one of, if not the premier schools in Rwanda.  Apparently a former President’s children and several other “important” folks in the Country send their children there, but the majority of the kids there are either orphans to kids from very poor villages that have shown some promise and have been sponsored in order to attend the school.  Although this is a great school the majority of the children there are still poor and don’t have the best of things.  So we handed out more shoes today and it was an awesome experience as well.

There’s just not enough good things to say about the experiences I’ve had here.   Tonight after an authentic Rwandan dinner we were treated to some traditional dancing, drumming and singing.  It was flipping amazing and I have the video to prove it.  I’ll post some as I get them uploaded.  The internet here is decent but not great enough to upload a ton of video so I’ll have to do that whenever I get home.

Tomorrow = Gorilla Trekking .   Many good pictures and experiences to come from that I’m sure.

Stay Tuned!!


Rwanda – Day 2

Our group at Cafe Continental (very authentic Rwandan food).

Today we had the opportunity to attend the consecration of the new Archbishop of Rwanda.  We drove from Kigali to Musanze which took approximately two hours through mountainous terrain and poorly maintained roads.   When we arrived in Musanze we realized that the whole town had pretty much shutdown in order to be able to attend this event.  President Paul Kagame even made a surprise visit (we knew he was coming) to the event.  Apparently he pulled up to the hotel that the event was being held at driving his own Range Rover (with security detail in tow).

It rains here quite a bit.  When I say it rains, it pours.  Right now we’re hanging out at the Bridge 2 Rwanda house in Musanze.  We’re hanging on the back patio/breeze way with the two TOMS representatives and just talking about the company culture at TOMS.  Wow what a cool place TOMS shoes is and their people are super super cool.

After talking with the TOMS folks for a good while, Kris Allen and his wife showed up (I’m actually typing this post while Kris is sitting right next to me) and we’ve been hanging out with them all night.  They’ve been gracious enough to answer all of our questions about their life now and are just extremely down to earth folks.

This has been an amazing experience already and we’ve only been here for a day.  This place is beautiful and the people are so nice.  It’s really nothing like most people think of African nations I’m sure.  Of course from what we’ve heard, it’s not really like other African nations, it’s much more progressive at this point.

Well, I’m looking forward to the experiences tomorrow has to offer and I’ll be sure to try and blog about it.

What a day of encouragement……

There’s not really any one thing I want to point to this evening but God has really sent several encouraging words to me today through different friends. God is so amazing when you really do your best to follow his lead. REALLY following his lead is something new to me I think. I mean I think all of us would like to think that we follow God and abide by his plan but I’m not really sure that I always have. It’s almost like giving yourself “lip service”. Not that I’ve arrived or anything but I can definitely see God doing things lately even in small ways.

Like earlier this week I was feeling a little downish. I think it was a combination of different things. The weather here isn’t my kind of weather, away from the family, and the magnitude of starting a business kinda hit me. Plus I’d been forgetting to have some time with God in the mornings. I’m out of my morning routine here so it kinda slipped my mind. So the past couple of mornings I’ve been focusing on just talking to God a little, and yesterday/last night I just really asked him to encourage me in some way and to confirm what I’m doing, and today my day started off immediately with a call from a friend that really had some encouraging words (and I don’t talk to this friend much). Then I’ve received several other messages via email and/or Facebook from people really encouraging me. It’s almost like God is saying, “you asked for encouragement… and so here ya go”.

Thank you Lord…..

Quick check in ….. (still in Portland)

Ok, so I got an email from my mother this morning wanting to make sure that I was still here. She was checking in to see if I’d been getting enough rest, sleep, and food, and she was wondering if I felt safe. Hahahaha….. I guess recording all my videos in the morning or at night would make you think that I’m not getting enough rest just because I look so rough at those times. Trina commented on the bags under my eyes. Haha! Oh, and I guess the little titles on my videos about random strangers may cause some to be alarmed but I assure you I’m just being comical.

I may not be going to bed early enough but I’m sleeping probably 7 or so hours a night. The people here are pretty much your “hippy, earthy” type of folks. They’re all really nice and pretty low key for the most part. This place is very clean and well put together for what it is. Laundry facilities, full kitchen with free bagels, $1 all you can eat pancakes, two refrigerators for groceries you want to bring in, so it’s a good place.

I got a call from a friend that I don’t typically get to talk to that much and he was telling me about someone in his town that he believes has started or was interested in starting a coffee house business. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in him getting us hooked up over the phone to “talk a little shop”. Of course I was interested. Then I got to talk to one of our pastors via Facebook last night and he gave me some ideas about possible locations for my coffee shop that I really hadn’t considered up until this point. So, that was very encouraging. I really had some prayer time throughout the day yesterday just asking God for affirmation and encouragement about what I’m doing here. I asked him to show me or speak to me some how about what it is I’m doing and then I have those interactions with those two friends of mine. I don’t know about everyone else but I typically take those occurrences and God answering my prayers.

So i say all that to say, I feel encouraged this morning and it’s a good feeling. When you’re in a place like I am this week, by yourself, away from your family, friends, and your typical surroundings, it’s easy to start self doubting and getting down on yourself at times. I do think that’s just part of a process like this though.

Thanks to everyone that has text me, sent me messages on Facebook, or made comments on my blog. It’s great to know that people are thinking and praying for me. I really do appreciate it a lot.

Ok, I’d better go catch the bus before I’m late for class. We’ll be working on making Panini and some other food menu items today as well as practicing specialty coffee drinks some more I’m sure. Latte art is tomorrow. If no one has seen Latte art, it’s really cool and something I’ve not seen in our area.

Oh, I’ve also found some sweet looking coffee shops around here. Maybe I’ll be able to share some pictures with everyone later tonight. MORE TO COME LATER…..